Tag Archives: film music

The Masque of the Red Death: “The Dance of Death” (1964)

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“The Dance of Death”

I came across Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death completely by accident several years ago when I was browsing through Netflix for something interesting to watch. While I generally don’t like horror, I do like Vincent Price very much, so I figured a film with Price in it couldn’t be THAT bad, so I gave it a try. The film is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same name and tells the story of Prince Prospero (Price), a Satanist who invites several dozen nobles and their wives to stay in his castle while the Red Death ravages the countryside. He promises that as long as they stay inside the castle they are safe, but in reality Prospero knows that everyone is doomed…except for him of course. As he explains to a terrified Francesca (played by Jane Asher, she is a peasant girl that Prospero kidnapped at the start of the film), he (Prospero) has made a deal with Satan himself: in return for delivering all of these souls to Hell via the Red Death, not only will Prospero be spared from the plague, but a high seat in Hell is reserved for him (Prospero has previously denied the existence of God and Heaven and therefore believes that ruling in Hell is the best thing to hope for).

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From left to right: Prospero, Red Death and Francesca

For the film’s final ball scene, Prospero had commanded that nobody was to wear red (as it would be in bad taste). But, unknown to everyone, the living symbol of the Red Death has slipped into the castle and his presence lures Prospero into his Black Room. The Prince mistakenly believes that he is meeting with an ambassador of Satan who has come to “reward” him for his services (a claim the Red Death does not deny until Francesca is safely out of the castle where her lover Gino is waiting for her). As Prospero and the Red Death come back to the dancers, Death announces “It’s time for a new dance to begin…the Dance of Death!”

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Upon these words, the scene of mirthful dancing and partying is changed into a danse macabre. One by one, each pair of dancers becomes coated in red “blood” (the symbol of infection with Red Death) and begin a halting, staggering ballet. It’s never been quite clear to me if they’re already dead or not, but it is an unforgettable scene. I draw this moment to your attention because of the haunting melody that begins with the first transformation. As the camera slides up and down the figure of the first pair, a sad woodwind melody begins. It continues at a leisurely pace as Prospero and Death walk among them (Prospero is amused by all of it). But once Francesca is sent away, Death finally reveals that the Prince is very mistaken in his beliefs as he informs Prospero that “Death has no master.” When Prospero protests that “there is no God (because Satan “killed” him)” Death replies “He (Satan) does not rule alone. And your pact with him will not save you.” Prospero finally reaches out to see the face underneath the mask only to find…his own. As Death had earlier told him “There  is no face of Death, until the moment of your own death.” Seeing his own face reveals that it is Prospero’s time to die, a fate that the Prince tries to flee. And once he starts to run, the leisurely melody turns into an almost frantic march as the dancers swarm Prospero, looks of rage on their bloody faces. And at every opening…there is Death waiting with open arms. Finally, in a lumbering climax, all of the dancers fall dead on the floor, all but Prospero….and Death. Terrified, Prospero flees to the Black Room and locks the door, but Death is already inside. With the Prince cornered, Death delivers one of the most haunting lines I have ever heard: “Why should you be afraid to die? Your soul has been dead for a long time.” And with one touch…Prospero is dead.

This scene remains my favorite of the film, and if you haven’t seen it before, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

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Star Trek II: “Inside Regula I” (1982)

One doesn’t normally associate the horror genre with Star Trek in any way, shape or form (though the infamous “Genesis” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation comes awfully close in my opinion), and yet there is a scene midway through Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that could be straight out of a horror film.

“Aboard Regula One” (beginning to 1:35)

The Enterprise is diverted from a routine training mission by an emergency call from space station Regula One and along the way are ambushed by Khan Noonien Singh, who seeks revenge against Admiral Kirk for stranding him and his followers on Ceti Alpha V fifteen years previously. Barely surviving this attack, the Enterprise limps to the space station, knowing Khan has been there and gone, not sure what they’ll find. Kirk, McCoy and Lieutenant Saavik beam over to see what, if anything, remains on the space station.

From the moment they transport down, the music is like something straight out of a horror film. The space station appears totally abandoned, and the music is dark and ominous. Even though Khan has left, there’s still no way of knowing if he’s left any “surprises” for Kirk and his crew.

Kirk, Saavik and McCoy walk through the empty corridors of the station, and the air is thick with tension. But it isn’t until we go back to a last shot of McCoy that we get the big “horror film” moment. He’s about to cross into a new section when he’s suddenly startled by a rat (because of course there are rats on space stations). And just when he thinks it is safe to keep going….WHAM!! He walks headfirst into the arms of a dead crew member, hanging upside down from a balcony.

It’s a truly horrifying moment, and one that I think is slightly underrated, due to the space battle that happens before and after this segment of the film. But this music is beautiful foretaste of what will come when Horner scores Aliens a few years after this film. I hope you enjoy a look at the scene “Inside Regula One.”

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Exciting news for Film Music Central!

There are exciting things coming for Film Music Central! Just yesterday, I was contacted about conducting interviews with several film and television composers, and I’m very excited to announce that the first interview I will be doing is with Scott Doherty, the composer for the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black!!

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Given that each new season of OITNB is released in its entirety, I am very curious to learn about the process of composing for this show. An interview date hasn’t been set yet, but it should be around early June. And this is just the first composer interview, there will definitely be more to come after this.

I know when I interviewed Adam Blau in January that I hoped this was the start of more good things to come, well, it looks like those good things are here 🙂 I cannot wait to share this interview with you next month!

That’s all for me today, have a good Thursday!

The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner blogathon is coming in June, check out the sign up page here

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Bernard Herrmann talks The Bride Wore Black (1968)

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Bernard Herrmann talks The Bride Wore Black (1968)

Normally when I share composer interviews, it’s for a relatively current film. But when I found an interview for the 1968 film The Bride Wore Black that was given by composer Bernard Herrmann, I just knew I had to share it with you.

The Bride wore Black (released in France as  La Mariée était en noir) is a revenge film directed by Francois Truffaut. It tells the story of a woman named Julie Kohler, whose husband is killed on her wedding day as they’re leaving the church. The crime occurred because five men were horsing around with a loaded rifle in a building across the street and it went off, fatally striking the newly married groom. After learning the identities of the men responsible, Kohler sets out to kill every last man responsible.

The new widow is completely ruthless in her pursuit of vengeance:

  • victim #1 is pushed off a balcony
  • victim #2 is poisoned
  • victim #3 is locked in a small closet where he suffocates to death (she sealed the door shut with duct tape
  • victim #4 would’ve been killed with a handgun but the police arrested him before she could get him
  • victim #5 is shot in the back (fatally) with an arrow as she posed for a painting of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. After noticing that he’s painted her on the wall in a mural, Julie decides to leave the painting as is, knowing the evidence will lead to her arrest. After arriving at jail (where still-alive victim #4 is also serving time), she ends up working in the kitchen where she is last seen taking a food cart towards the men’s side of the prison (a scream implying she’s completed her task of vengeance).

The music for this film was written by the legendary composer Bernard Herrmann (perhaps best known for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock on four of his films, including Psycho). I haven’t found many interviews with Herrmann thus far, so it is fascinating to hear him talking about his work with any film. I admit I haven’t actually seen The Bride Wore Black (not yet anyway), but after watching this interview and reading more about the plot, I definitely need to check this film out.

What do you think of Bernard Herrmann talking about The Bride Wore Black? Have you seen the film? And if you have, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, have a great Monday!!

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Bernard Herrmann, see here

The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner blogathon is coming in June, check out the sign up page here

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Brian Tyler scoring Partition (2007)

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Brian Tyler scoring Partition (2007)

Partition is a very sad story, set in 1947 during the partition of India (when Pakistan was created as a Muslim nation). It is based on the Romeo and Juliet story type, where two people fall in love even though it is forbidden. In this case, a Hindu man, Gian Singh, slowly falls for Naseem, a Muslim girl, even though all the rules of their respective religions forbid this.

What makes this film notable for me is that it features a score by Brian Tyler, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite film composers. This behind the scenes video shows Tyler at work in the studio, annotating his score and recording with a rough cut of the film playing on a screen in front of him. He also worked with the Hollywood Studio Symphony for recording the score as well.

One big thing with the music that Tyler wanted to create is, that while there is a sense of Western music in the score, there is also a frequent callback to the sound of India as well. He wanted to create the feeling that you (the audience) have been transported through time to this very traumatic period in the history of India and Pakistan.

There is something magical about watching Brian Tyler on the podium conducting his music, I definitely need to hear more of this score now. If you’ve seen Partition, I would love to know your thoughts on the film and the score in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Brian Tyler, see here

The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner blogathon is coming in June, check out the sign up page here

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Hans Zimmer talks Inception (2010)

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Hans Zimmer talks Inception (2010)

I have watched a lot of movies, but few have bent my brain more than Inception (2010), a film set in a world where it is possible to enter the subconscious and “extract” information. Cobb, a “dream thief”, is tasked by a wealthy businessman named Saito to perform “inception” on the son of a rival, which is planting an idea in the subconscious mind, and it is supposed to be an impossible task. The stakes for Cobb are pretty high: he’s been on the run for years after being framed for the murder of his wife (she actually committed suicide), and if he succeeds, Saito will make the charges go away so he can return home to his two children. But…in a world where we enter dreams within dreams within dreams, how do we know any of this is even real to begin with? (That question is never really answered by the way, we’re meant to make our own conclusions).

The score for this reality-bending film was composed by the legendary Hans Zimmer, who returned to collaborate again with director Christopher Nolan on this project (Inception marked their third collaboration together). This brief “making of” video shows how Nolan and Zimmer brought this score into existence. Zimmer described the music of Inception as “a very electronic, dense score, filled with nostalgia and sadness.” What I love best about the score is how it changes as the characters move deeper and deeper into the “dream within a dream.” The deeper they go, the more “unreal” the music becomes; this all reaches a head when Cobb and Ariadne are in Limbo (the bottom level) while the other members of his group are moving through three separate dream levels above them.

If you’ve seen Inception, what did you think of the story? And what did you think of the film’s soundtrack? Let me know in the comments below 🙂 And I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at the making of the film score for this film 🙂

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Hans Zimmer, see here

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John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

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John Debney (and Tom Morello) talk Iron Man 2 (2010)

It’s hard to create a sequel that lives up to the awesomeness that was the original Iron Man film, but Iron Man 2 did a pretty good job. The film follows Tony Stark after he publicly reveals that he is Iron Man to the world. See, as it turns out, the palladium in the arc reactor that’s keeping Tony alive is also slowly killing him, so he begins to live life very recklessly (as he doesn’t have much time to live). But there are other problems: Ivan Vanko, determined to seek vengeance on Stark, builds his own arc reactor and sets out to kill him. (This is also the film that introduces Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow.)

While the film’s score features a healthy selection of rock songs (including two from AC/DC), the orchestral score was composed by John Debney and Tom Morello. The above video featurette details how Debney collaborated with Morello to create the score for the film.

Some have criticized the MCU for not having a “consistent” sound, which is to be expected since multiple composers have been employed to score these films, but I think each composer puts their own unique twist to each installment of the MCU, and Iron Man 2 is no exception. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at the making of this film’s score.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of John Debney, see here

The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner blogathon is coming in June, check out the sign up page here

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